If you’re worried about foodborne illness, you need this app.

Arielle Weg
January 25, 2018

We all just tossed our romaine lettuce after the E.coli outbreak, only to learn it may not have been the leafy greens’ fault all along. Every day it seems there’s a new food out to get us, and nothing seems safe any more.

A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently developed a chip that can detect bacteria in raw foods. To make the product more accessible to the average person, they created a smartphone app anyone can use in conjunction with the chip.

UMass Amherst Office of News and Media Relations

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The product is not currently on the market, but it’s an exciting breakthrough that could help decrease foodborne illness for home cooks and field workers responding to natural disasters, according to the university’s press release.

Users simply place the chip in a liquid sample, either from rinsing the food or using fresh juice, and allow for the chip’s surface to detect bacteria. If bacteria is captured, small dots will appear on the surface of the chip. Users can then use the microscope attachment with their smartphone, and the app will look for the dots.

New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.

Before the smartphone app was developed, researchers used microscopes to detect dots. A student in the laboratory was able to develop an app that connects to an attachable microscope, making the chip accessible and easy to use. The attachment only costs $30, according to the release.

A video produced by the university explains that one in six Americans encounters foodborne illness every year. Of the approximately 50 million incidents, 10 million happen at home.

“Most people around the world cook their vegetables before eating, but here in the U.S. more and more people like to eat these foods raw. This gave us the idea that a quick test that can be done at home would be a good idea,” says lead researcher Lili He in the press release.

The team hopes to release this product to the public soon. According to the release, most modern day bacteria tests can take up to two days, while this new technology can take less than two hours. And the best part? You can do the test from the comfort of your own home.